Friday, March 14, 2008

A Story from a Big Sister

Raquel Branchik has been matched to her Little Sister Kara for just about one year and recently shared this story with her Match Support Specialist.

I just wanted to let you know about an awesome thing that Kara is doing. It’s a long story but it is really cool.

As a side note - in addition to mentoring, I sponsor three girls overseas through Compassion International. I have been doing that for over 15 years.

When I picked up Kara this past Saturday, we went through the typical conversations about what she is learning in school. She was really saddened about a film she watched in Social Studies. Apparently she saw a film about Tanzania. She said that the people had to choose between a meal and a doctor visit. She said many did not have shoes and had scraps for clothes. She seemed genuinely bothered by this and said she wished their was something she could do.

I told her that it would not be easy, but there is something she could do. I told her Compassion does work in Tanzania. I told her that sponsorship costs $32 a month and she knows I already sponsor three girls. I had her do multiplication to tell me how much I spend a month. She did the math and correctly said $96. I told her I could not afford another one. But I asked her to guess how much I spend with her in a month's time. Even if we do not go skating or bowling or something, we usually do go out to lunch. We wrote down where we went the past four weeks and what we spent. We spent $50. Three times we did fast food and once we did Eat N Park. She loves Eat N Park. I told her if we stop going to Eat N Park and if we eat at my place twice a month - she could raise the $32 and still be able to eat out twice.

She really took time to think about it and I made sure she understood that in six months from now, we still cannot do Eat N Park. Then I called her mom and told her what we were considering and made sure it was okay with her. After much thought, Kara agreed. We went on to Compassion's website and searched for girls in Tanzania. She chose to sponsor a 6 year old girl in Tanzania named Neema who was wearing scraps for shoes. I contacted Compassion and we worked it out that it will be in Kara's name but c/o to me at my address. The little girl in Tanzania will get Kara's picture and will write letters to Kara (not to me). They will even bill me separately than my other three so that Kara and I can put money in a tin and once a month get a money order to pay the sponsorship. I also made sure Kara knew that she will only receive 3 letters a year from this little girl but she can write to her as often as she wants. For only 9 years old, she was very serious about it. She even said "I can't believe we are doing this."

I think this will be such a good experience for her. It will teach her that there is a bigger world than her immediate surroundings. It will teach her responsibility, commitment, and patience. Most importantly, it will teach her the joy of helping others. I am sure there will be times when she wants to go to Eat N Park. But as soon as she gets a letter - it will all be worth it.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Agency Featured In Recent Trib Article

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh was featured today in a Tribune-Review article about mentoring.

Here is the link to the article:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Match Featured in Observer Reporter Newspaper

Here is the link to an article featured in Observer-Reporter newspaper about one of our Matches. The match and BBBS are featured as part of National Mentoring Month.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Match With a Boxful of Memories

The first time Branden met his Big Brother Michael in October 2003, he was a little shy. That wasn’t a problem because as Michael remembers, “We were both a little shy.” The two broke the ice when they grabbed a few board games to play, and Branden beat his Big at the game “Battleship!” The competition, and fun, between them have continued to this day.

Branden is a native of Pittsburgh and Michael of the Philadelphia-area. “We always ‘fight’ when we see the Steelers play the Eagles, the Phillies versus the Pirates, or the Flyers against the Penguins,” says Michael. However, the rivalry among the two ends when it comes to their mutual love of music, R&B Oldies to be exact. Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and the Spinners are some of the classics the pair enjoy.

The two also enjoy making pizza from scratch, laser tag, and visits to Pittsburgh sites. Michael recalls a trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo when Branden was climbing the rope-web exhibit. “Branden was acting like he was James Bond. He lost his footing and fell off the net. He was laughing the entire time, and I got it on tape. We still watch it and laugh to this day.”
When asked about what he has learned so far from his Big, Branden replies, “I learned how to take care of a dog.” Michael continues, “He wanted to know how to take care of a dog in case he ever gets one as a pet. I taught him some things with my dog, Sterling. Now Branden has taught her how to jump for treats!”

Michael explains he has also learned something from being a Big. “It helps me to put things in perspective by looking at the world through the eyes of a child. It also has taught me the value of patience.” He goes on to explain, “Sometimes it’s a struggle to get him to call me back. However, I’ve discovered that Branden has a box where he keeps memorabilia from our times together. Just when I think he doesn’t care, he pulls something out from that box and it re-energizes me!” By the sound of it, Branden will have plenty of other things to add to that box throughout the coming years.

This Match Spotlight was originally published in our Big News newsletter.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month! You can get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters in a variety of different ways. Apply to be a mentor or participate in this year's Bowl for Kids' Sake!

Match Spotlight

Big Brother Onno and Little Brother Jermaine have been matched for almost a year. Already Onno doesn’t consider being a Big to Jermaine as volunteering. “He has become family,” says Onno. Onno was introduced to Big Brothers Big Sisters when a friend, who volunteered as a Big Brother, would always comment on how much fun he had with his Little Brother. Onno thought about the things he could offer to a child. “I’m a very active person, and I imagined all the outdoor activities I could do with my Little. Even simply throwing around a football,” says Onno.It turns out he was right.

When asked to describe his Big Brother, Jermaine says, “Onno’s fun to play with.” He also helped Jermaine to achieve an important milestone. “He taught me how to swim,” says Jermaine proudly. Having a good bond between the two does not mean they cannot enjoy a little competition. A highlight of their match for Jermaine was when he beat his Big Brother in a football video game. “I was happy,” recalled Jermaine, “and he was laughing!”

Sports are not the only things the two do for fun. “Every week that Jermaine and I chill is pure fun and all positive,” says Onno. Together they frequent the Mattress Factory and the Andy Warhol Museum. This past school year, when Jermaine had trouble in math class, Onno would help him go over his homework. Now Jermaine feels more confident when going to class.According to Onno, being a Big Brother is “different than I expected, but in a very positive way.

Throughout our year together, Jermaine and I have had some truly great times.” When speaking about people who have thought about volunteering as a Big but have not made the move, Onno advises, “You have the chance to have a positive effect on someone’s life for just a few hours a week. Those few hours a week, you’d probably be sitting in front of the TV or some other useless activity. The experience, for both sides, is truly life changing.”

This Match Spotlight was originally published in our Fall 2006 Big News newsletter. The match is still going strong to this day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Little Sister Proves To Be a True Leader

Big Sister Laureen Quinn informed us that her Little Sister Nicole was recently featured in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about her unfortunate injury while playing in her high-school basketball game.

Laureen states, "The story and the coach's words about her are amazing, despite her injury."

The article shows that Nicole has grown up to become a true leader. We are proud of Nicole and thank Laureen for sharing the article with us.

Read the article>>